Sojiji

Access Map and Temple Diagram


History

A dozen or so magnificent structures in the spacious temple grounds may make the laity believe that the Temple was founded centuries ago. It certainly has a long historical background. However, the original temple was not constructed here but in the Noto Peninsula, Ishikawa Prefecture. It was a Shingon Sect temple named Moro-oka-dera and founded circa 740 by Priest Gyoki (668-749), a great Buddhist who erected the world-famous Todaiji in Nara and many others including Sugimoto-dera in Kamakura. In 1321, Priest Keian Jokin, the founder of the Temple, was invited to be the chief priest of Moro-oka-dera. Shortly after assuming the post, Priest Keizan changed the devaluation from the Shingon to the Soto Zen sect with the approval of Emperor Godaigo (1288-1339), and renamed it Sojiji. It flourished under the imperial patronage for the fourth consecutive emperor.

SojisanmonDuring the Muromachi Period (1336-1573) through the Edo Period (1603-1868), the Shogunate gave support to the Temple and designated it as their prayer hall. At one time of its peak, the Temple had as many as 70-odd structures in its temple grounds in Noto. The Temple and Eiheiji in Fukui Prefecture which was established in 1244 by Priest Dogen (1200-1253), the founder of Soto Zen, have been the matchless twin of the Sect in Japan.

Unfortunately, Sojiji in Noto was almost totally destroyed by the fire of 1898. In reconstruction talks, leaders of the Temple insisted that it should be relocated somewhere near Tokyo to expand the Soto Zen in eastern Japan. With another great Soto Zen temple Eiheiji located only 150 kilometers south, it made sense to relocate near the nation's capital, and they reached a conclusion to erect a new one. Thirteen years later in 1911, the new Sojiji officially started its religious services at the present site in Tsurumi, Yokohama. The Temple here has, therefore, a history of only a century.

Priest Dogen: Founder of the Soto Zen

Before referring to the Temple structures, it seems necessary to tell you about Priest Dogen, one of the greatest Buddhists in Japan. He was born into a noble family in Kyoto but lost his father at age 3 and mother at age 8. An orphan, he entered Enryakuji at Mt. Hiei, Shiga Prefecture at age 13 and took Buddhist vows the next year. Later, he joined Kenninji, the mother temple of Kenninji school of the Rinzai Zen and founded by Priest Eisai (1141-1215), the founder of the Rinzai Zen, where he studied Zen for six years. In 1223, he went to Zhejiang, China, and became a student of the Soto Zen master Zhangweng Rujing (1163-1228), the chief priest of the temple on Mt. Tiang-tong. Priest Dogen was so excellent and capable that in 1227 Priest Rujing named him to be the successor in the tradition of the Soto Zen (T'sao-tung in China).

Upon his return to Japan the same year, he introduced the Soto Zen into Japan and tried to spread the teachings. Predictable as it may have seemed, he faced the animosity of the priests at Enryakuji, then the most powerful stronghold for the Japanese Buddhism based on the Tendai tenet. He had to move from one temple to another facing and challenging hardships. During those years from 1231 through 1253, however, he wrote the famous Shobo Genzo, which is translated as "Treasury of the True Dharma Eye", or "The Eye Treasury of the True Dharma," a Zen philosophy discourse made of 95 volumes. (He died before he achieved the target of 100 volumes.) The book is a collection of his Buddhist sermons and honored as the basic scripture by the Soto Sect Buddhists. What he says is, in essence, that Zazen {zah-zen} or sit-in meditation is most important for the Buddhists and one should know oneself like the Greek philosopher Socrates' words "Know thyself." Zazen is not the measures to obtain enlightenment but practicing Zazen is the enlightenment itself. His view further provoked hostility of Enryakuji and he was ousted from Kyoto. An excommunication in Buddhist way. Nowhere to stay in Kyoto, he went to Fukui Prefecture and built a temple named Daibutsuji in 1244, and two years later, it was renamed Eiheiji, the mother temple of the entire Soto Sect.

Back then in Kamakura, Tokiyori Hojo (1227-1263) was the de facto ruler of Japan as the Fifth Hojo Regent. He was greatly interested in Zen and was about to found Kenchoji. Tokiyori invited Priest Dogen to Kamakura in 1247 and sounded if the Priest was willing to assume the seat of the chief priest of Kenchoji. He stayed in Kamakura for six months and performed religious services teaching the Soto Zen, but turned down Tokiyori's offer. To associate with the man of authority was the last thing he had wanted. This is the main reason the Soto Zen took hold in the rural areas while the Rinzai Zen flourished in urban areas like Kamakura and Kyoto.

Priest Keizan: Founder of the Temple

After Priest Dogen passed away in 1253, the chief's post of the Soto Zen was succeeded by Priest Koun-Ejo (1198-1280), and then by Priest Tettsu-Gikai (1219-1309). The fourth successor was Priest Keizan, the founder of the Temple.

Born in Fukui Prefecture, Priest Keizan took the tonsure at age 8 to become a shami (sramanera in Skt.), or a Buddhist acolyte, and entered Eiheiji to study Buddhism under the guidance of Priest Tettsu, the third chief priest of Eiheiji. As early as at age 13, Priest Keizan was ordained by Priest Koun-Ejo, and several years later, his master gave him the title of Ino {e-noh} (Karmadana in Skt.), in other words, a license to teach Buddhism to the training priests. Thereafter, he was welcomed as a chief priest in various temples, mostly in western Japan, and at the age of 31, the number of priests he had ordained topped 70. Most notable in his mission was that he enrolled quite a few women in his class and taught them Buddhism. Back at the time, society was by and large male-dominated, and more so in Buddhist circles. Priest Keizan may have been one of the the few equal right advocates in medieval Japan.

He was excellent in preaching and greatly contributed to the spread of the Soto Zen combining it with elements of the esoteric Buddhism to some extent such as incantation and requiem masses. While Priest Dogen studied the Buddha teachings in self-cultivation, Priest Keizan showed them outward.

sojiMH In 1321, he was granted Moro-oka-dera in the Noto Peninsula in response to his great contributions, which he later changed the cult to the Soto Zen and renamed as Sojiji, the origin of today's Temple, as noted earlier.

To pay respect to Priest Dogen and Priest Keizan, the Soto Sect conferred the honorific titles on them. Namely, Priest Dogen is called Koso, or the Great Patriarch, Priest Keizan is named Taiso, or the Initial Patriarch, and the two are addressed as Ryoso, or the Duo Patriarch.

The Temple has a complete set of seven structures called Shichido Garan in Japanese in its grounds, though not symmetrically designed as typical Zen temples. Together with Eiheiji in Fukui Prefecture, it is the headquarters of the Soto Sect and has, according to its website, 15,000 sub-temples and 8 million followers throughout the world.



Sanmon, or Inner Gate
(Picture; left)

This copper-roofed magnificent gate was constructed in 1969 getting donations from Toyojiro Kihara (1890-1974), a big forest owner and follower of the Soto Sect. He believed his success in business owed much to his wife Yoshi. When his beloved wife died of sickness in 1966, he entered priesthood naming himself So-un and buried her ashes in the Temple's graveyard. The gate was constructed to the memory of Mrs. Kihara and as a token of his gratitude to her. It is among the largest of its kind in Japan. Although Kihara was called the Forest King of Japan and a major supplier of pulpwood before World War II, the gate is not made of wood but is a reinforced concrete building. (Note. Japan is the third largest paper producer in the world next to China and America. Before the War, paper was made 100 percent from woodfiber. Today' paper is, however, over 60 percent recycled content.) It measure 9 by 23 meters and 22 meters high. Installed to the both sides of the gate are a pair of statues of Kongo-Rikishi, or Vajra Pani in Skt.: One at the left is named Misshaku (Guhya-pada in Skt.) and the other at the right is Nara-en (Narayana in Skt.). On the upper floor, statues of Jizo Bosatsu (Ksitigarbha in Skt.) and Sho Kan'non (Arya-avalokitesvara in Skt.) are enthroned, surrounded by 16 rakan (Arhat in Skt.), or Sakyamuni's 16 immediate disciples. The Jizo Bosatsu statue was fashioned by Seiki Abe (1912-1978), who was a member of the judge panel for the Japan Fine Arts Exhibition. (Abe is, meanwhile, a popular family name in Japan, but pronounced ah-beh, not like the nickname of Abraham.)

Chokushi-mon Gate

Chokushi denotes an imperial order, and therefore, the gate was used on the occasion of the imperial mission visiting the Temple. A pair of yellow chrysanthemum crests appearing on the doors indicate they are the Imperial Family's emblem. The Temple was closely associated with the Family in early days. Emperor Godaigo, for example, studied Buddhism with the Priest Keizan. The gate was build in 1925, while Emperor Taisho (1879-1926) was on the throne.

The corridor stretches to the east and the west connecting the buildings of both sides. Its is called 100-ken corridor (ken is an old unit of length of 1.8 meters), and are designed to practice Zazen inside the corridor.

Butsuden, or Main Hall (Picture; above)

Butsuden is a Zen Sect's term for the main hall, and in case of the Temple, it is called Dai-yu-hoden. Construction started in 1907 and completed eight years later in 1915. The stately 21.8 meter-square building, made totally of zelkova trees, has double and semi-gabled roofs.

Enshrined on the center altar of the hall is a statue of Shaka Nyorai or Sakyamuni in Skt., the main object of worship, flanked by Kasho (Kasyapa in Skt.) at its left and Anan (Ananda in Skt.) at its right. The duo are among the ten greatest disciples of Shaka. The term Dai-yu-hoden denotes the halls that house these trio statues. In the left recess are sedentary statues of Bodhidharma, the patriarch of the Chinese Zen in the 6th century, and of Priest Ryokai Dosan (807-869), (Dong-shan linang-jie in China), the patriarch of Chinese Soto Zen. Installed in the right recess are sedentary statues of Priest Rujing and Daigen Shuri Bosatsu, that is a guardian deity of religion and is always enshrined in the main hall.

A Shaka Nyorai statue at e-Museum (not a regular one but in Seiryoji style).


Daisodo, or Founders' Hall (Picture, right)

SojiFHEven more stately than the main hall is this building standing right-hand side of the main hall. Daisodo is literally the great founders' hall, and in case of the Temple, it is for Priest Keizan or the Initial Patriarch's Hall. It functions not only as the founders' hall but also as the lecture hall. In other words, it is also a hatto in Zen term.

The copper roofed gorgeous building of reinforced concrete, 54.5 by 47.2 meters and 39 meters high, was built in 1965 in commemoration of the 600th anniversary of death (onki in Japanese) of the Second Chief Priest Gazan-Shoseki (1275-1365). He is famous for his longevity and during his term of office as the chief priest, he produced a number of great priests. Onki is a memorial service held every fifty years for the founding priests or the great priests. Construction of this hall cost the Temple 1,500 million yen, all funded by the Soto Zen followers including those in Hawaii and Brazil.

Inside the hall, the floor is as spacious as 40-meter square and is covered with 1,000 tatami mats. Enthroned on the altar are statues of Priest Keizan in the center, Priest Dogen at its left and Priest Gazan at its right. Besides them, five more statues are installed in the left and right recesses. All of them are the founding priests of the major Soto Zen temples. Every morning and evening, roughly 100 priests hold religious services in this hall.

Daisodo is large enough for the chief priest to deliver a sermon to the training priests or disciples. Placed in the inner center is a platform called Shumi-dan. Usually, Shumi-dan is a pedestal on which the Buddha statues are installed. (The term Shumi originates in the Mt. Sumeru of the Buddhist universe). Here in Daisodo, however, it is a platform on which the chief priest stands to make lectures. No other priests are permitted to step on it.

Daisodo or Hatto

It serves as a Senbutsujo, a hall in which screening of priests who attained Nirvana are conducted (a Zen sect version of ordainment) and is one of the most important structures for Zen temples. Usually built to the west of the main hall, it is dedicated to a statue of Monju Bosatsu or Manjusri Bodhisattva in Skt. , which is the Bodhisattva of wisdom and intellect. Today's Daisodo here is the main training center for Zen priests. A Monju Bosatsu statue at TNM.

In this hall, they sleep, eat, study and practice Zazen. Each is given a space of only one tatami mat (1.8 by 0.9 meters). There are three places Zen priests have to keep absolutely silent: Dining rooms, bathrooms and rest rooms. While eating, bathing or excreting, they are not allowed to make any noise. These acts are thought to provide them with good opportunities to train themselves. The hall, therefore, must always be quiet, so quiet as you might hear a pin drop. They also study Buddhism in this hall right in front of Monju Bosatsu, the Bodhisattva of wisdom and intellect

The building was designed by Chuta Ito (1867-1954), an authority on Japanese architectural history and professor of Tokyo University, who unearthed the stone Buddhist images at Yungang, China for the first time and introduced them to the world. He is also known as an expert on the architecture of Horyuji in Nara, and proved Horyuji is the oldest temple in Japan. Included among the famous buildings he designed are Meiji Jingu Shrine, Tsukiji Honganji, both in Tokyo, and Heian Jingu Shrine in Kyoto. In 1943, he was awarded an Order of Cultural Merit, first ever from the architectural field. The copper- and semi-gable roofed building took seven years to be completed in 1933.

Koshakudai

Too luxurious though the building may seem, it is a Kuri or priests' living quarters constructed in 1920. The term Koshaku is a translation of Sanskrit "Gandha-sugandha In" meaning fragrance. It is said that at the time the remains of Sakyamuni was cremated, fragrant trees were burnt. Zen temples often use the term Koshaku as living quarters. In the center recess, a wooden statue of Daikokuten, or Mahakala in Skt., the largest of its kind, is enshrined. (Kuri in Zen temples usually enshrines a statue of Idaten or Skanda in Skt.). Daikokuten is one of Shichifukujin (see Pilgrims), or Seven Deities of Good Fortune and it is the God of Wealth and the God of Five Cereals. The statue usually wears a hood and holds a big bag filled with treasures on his left shoulder. In his right hand, he holds a luck mallet, often astride two straw-wrapped rice bales.

Hokodo Hall

The building, 20 by 29 meters, made of Japanese cypress with semi-gabled roof was relocated here from the Noto Peninsula in 1911 and is sacred to the memory of parishioners' ancestors. Enthroned on the altar is a statue of Hoko Bosatsu, or Jvalana in Skt. On the altars, a number of mortuary tablets for the past parishioners are installed. Memorial services for those are held regularly in this hall. Hoko denotes the emission of light. Until Daisodo was completed, the Hokodo Hall had served as Hatto.
This hall maintains the original design, which can be seen in the numbers of pillars and height of the floor. Noto peninsula is well known for heavy snowfall in winter. The structures are designed to withstand accumulated heavy snow on the roof with more pillars than usual and elevated floor.



Goreiden
Behind the Main Hall and at the left of the Daisodo Hall is a 992-square-meter enclosure, which is for Emperor Godaigo and the shrine-like building called Goreiden (go is an honorific prefix) is dedicated to his soul. The building with semi-gabled and cypress-shingled roofs was built in 1937 in commemoration of his 600th anniversary of death. Emperor Godaigo gave the Temple a large panel inscribed with the name of Sojiji, a symbol of imperial patronage. At one time, he learned the Soto Zen a lot from Priest Keizan, the founder of the Temple. The following four emperors, i.e. Emperors Gomurakami (1328-1368), Gonara (1496-1557), Goyozei (1571-1617) and Gokomyo (1633-1654) also patronized the Temple and the Goreiden enshrines their memorial tablets. (Note. The prefix go of each emperor's name here is not an honorific prefix, but simply denotes "post" or "next". In case of Emperor Gomurakami, for example, there was Emperor Murakami before.) Today's emperor and the imperial family is, however, unable to support any specific religions or temples under the Constitution enacted after World War II, which guarantees the freedom of religion and prohibits the Imperial Family from getting involved in other religions than its own Shinto.

Shi-untai

The 30 by 34 meters building made of Japanese cypress was constructed in 1915 as a drawing room where the chief priest of the Temple always meet with VIPs. Making this hall famous are the pictures painted on the Japanese sliding doors by such notable artists as Tetsu-en Sakuma (1850-1921), Shuho Ikegami (1874-1944), and Michihiko Tsubata (1868-1938), who was patronized by the Imperial Family. Shi-un is literally purple clouds and in the Jodo Sect, it is believed that the Amitabha Buddha come down to the adherents' death bed with purple clouds to lead them to the Pure Land Paradise. Anyhow, the purple clouds are the symbols of auspiciousness to the Buddhists. Though Buddhist temples are not always engaged in a wedding ceremony, here the Temple performs it for the parishioners in Buddhist fashion in this auspicious hall.

Unsui Statues

SojiunsuiDUnsuiPUnsui is a word combined un (cloud) with sui (water) and Unsui denotes a mendicant Zen priest, travelling across the country in search of Buddha teachings or great Zen masters. They go anywhere just like drifting clouds and flowing water. Here in the Temple's grounds are the bronze statues of typical Unsui garbed in unique clothing and bamboo hats. The statues were carved in 1973 by Torao Yazaki (1904-1988), a famous sculptor in Japan, who studied sculpture in France under Ossip Zadkine (1890-1967). A replica of the statues also stands at Bois de Vincennes in Paris, which was donated by the Temple as a token to show friendship between Japan and France. A friend of mine kindly took the photo (right) at Vincennes when he visited Paris in August 2000 to see his daughter who was living there. Meanwhile, cultural exchanges between Japan and France has been quite active. In 1997, for example, Japan's national art treasure Kudara Kan'non statue, a two-meter tall Bodhisattva carved in the 7th century and enshrined in Horyuji in Nara, left Japan for the first time ever for France to be on view for French people in its Japan Year. In return, the French government made "Liberty Leading the People" painted in 1830 by Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863) available for the France Year Exhibition in Japan. President Jacques Chirac (1932-) has visited Japan nearly 45 times.

Homotsukan, or Treasure House

Built in 1974 to the memory of the Priest Keizan on his 650th onki, it houses more than 10,000 pieces of the Temple's treasures including five ICAs.

One of the most well-known treasures would be the portrait of nun Hoshun-in, widow of Toshiie Maeda (1538-1599). Maeda was a powerful feudal lord in the Edo Period and controlled the area of today's Ishikawa Prefecture as the richest fief in Japan. Kanazawa city was his stronghold, and even today the city is replete with many structures constructed by the Maedas. The Temple was closely associated with the Maedas. The multi-colored portrait is painted on silk. As the Buddhist nun name Hoshun-in indicates, she wears a typical nun's robe. Those days, ladies entered nunhood immediately after they were bereaved of husbands, whose nun names always had the suffix in. Incidentally, NHK TV (Japan's primary public broadcasting network) featured the Saga of Maeda in 2002 in its 45-minute Sunday night drama.

In the center wall of the hall, a large tapestry-like embroidered fabric called Dai-Happi is hanging, which measures 715 by 666 centimeters made in the Edo Period. The picture shows a roaring lion and expresses that Sakyamuni's sermon is as awe-inspiring as lion's roar. It is an ICA. On October 15 every year, the anniverary of the death of Priest Keizan, a memorial service is held for him at Daisodo, when this tapestry is bought to Daisodo and covers shumidan, an altar made of fine wood, in the hall.

Treasurers on display are replaced every three months. When I visited here in June 2010, exhibited were 15 paintings (hanging scrolls, mostly sixteen Rakan), 17 Buddha-related sculptures, 13 craftworks including Dai Happi and 7 ancient writings.

Sculptures are mostly Buddha related statuettes such as Yakushi Nyorai and Jizo Bosatsu, etc.
Among them are head parts of Bosatsu made in 7th century in China, which are exhibited in glass cases. A statuette of Yoryu Kan'non, also fashined in China, has a willow branch in her right hand and putting left hand on her breast. It is one of the 33 Kan'non transformations.

The House is open from 10:00 to 16:30 on Saturday, Sunday and National Holiday. Admission: 300 yen.

Monument for Dr. George Trunbull Ladd

Dr.LaddDr. Ladd (1842-1921) is an American diplomat, a psychologist, a clergyman and an educator. Born in Painesville, Ohio, he became professor of philosophy at Yale University in 1881. He is the author of Elements of Physiological Psychology, Principles of Church Polity, Philosophy of Mind, The Doctrine of Sacred Scripture, etc. During 1982 to 1899, he visited Japan three times at the invitation of the Japanese Government as a diplomatic adviser and helped the Cabinet under Prime Minister Hirobumi Ito (1841-1909) to promote mutual understanding between Japan and America. The Government later conferred a decoration on him, the Second Class Order of the Rising Sun. (Japanese decoration system is an imitation of British one but there is no episode like the Garter. The "Blue Ribbon" annual prize given to the best Japanese motion picture was named after the fact that the certificate of the first award (1950) had a blue ribbon on it, and has nothing to do with the Garter.) Following his will, according to a literature, parts of his ashes are buried in the Temple. At the time I visited the Temple to see the tomb, I thought it was located somewhere in the back graveyard. Near the Daisodo Hall was a grave-keepers' house, in which an old lady was cleaning the floor. Since there are so many graves in the yard, I asked her if she knew where Dr. Ladd's tomb is. She seemed to know somehow the name of Dr. Ladd, but not certain exactly where it is. Pulling out a brochure or two from the desk drawers and putting eyeglasses on, she thumbed through them. After a couple of minutes, she finally found it and told me politely where it is with a map. I bought a bundle of incense stick paying 100 yen as other visitors did, and proceeded toward the gate area as instructed. It was not in the graveyard but near the Temple's bell. Contrary to my expectations, it looked like a huge monument honoring Dr. Ladd's contributions to the Japanese diplomacy. Though not sure if it was proper to offer incense, I placed the burning incense at the foot of the monument and bowed in Buddhist manner.

Heisei Guze Kan'non@(Picture; right)
Up on a hill on the left side of Sanmon gate stands a new and magnificent Sho-Kan'non statue. It is 6-meter tall made of aluminum and was designed by sculptor Seibo Kitamura (1884-1987), who is well known by his "Peace Statue" in Nagasaki city and was confered the Order of Cultural Merit. A philanthropist, name undisclosed, donated the statue to the Temple in 2007. It used to stand between Daiyuhoden and Daisodo. The Temple relocated the statue at present site in March 2013 and renamed it Hesei Guze Kan'non. Heisei is the name of current era. It started on 8 January 1989, the first day after the foormer Emperor Hirohito died and his son, Prince Akihito, succeeded to the throne. In Japan, the name of era changes every time the emperor passes away and the new one assumes the post. The current year 2014 is Heisei Year 26. In other words, it shows how long the current emperor has been on the throne. All official documents have to be shown with this era name when referring to the year. Guze (pronounced goo-zay) means the Savior of the World and the famous Guze Kannon is enshrined in Yumedono of Horyuji in Nara.
The Temple renamed and relocated the aluminum statue in order to console the spirit of the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake, which hit north eastern Japan on March 11, 2011 killing nearly 18,500 people. The temple held grand memorial service for the victims on March 8, 2013, led by the Chief Priest. The statue is looking toward the north-east as an R.I.P. symbol.


Namamugi Incident


About one kilo-meter down the Temple along the National Route 15 stands a stone monument (picture; below) in remembrance of the historic Namamugi Incident. Namamugi is the name of this neighborhood, where three Britons were killed or seriously injured by Japanese samurai on August 21, 1862. They were a group of four to be exact including one woman Mrs. Borradaile of Hong Kong and on their way from Yokohama to Heikenji in Kawasaki on horseback. At the place where the monument stands today, they encountered a procession of the powerful Daimyo (feudal lord) in Kagoshima Prefecture going back home. The procession is a long one, some 400 strong parade, with the feudal lord in a palanquin in the center. As a custom of the days, it was imperative for the commoners to prostrate themselves on both sides of the road, and samurai on horseback had to dismount to pay respect. If there ever were anyone who did not follow this rule he was subject to death by slaying on the spot. The Britons being almost totally strangers in Japan may have thought Japan was no different from China and kept going on horseback. Enraged at the rudeness, a lead-off samurai of the procession cautioned the group to dismount. Unfortunately, they did not understand Japanese at all and continued to go on. Seeing they were approaching the lord's palanquin, a few samurai blocked them. The group noticed at last something unusual was going to happen and tried to turn the horses back toward Yokohama, but the horses thrusted into the procession since the road was too narrow, only two or three meters wide. Some of samurai drew their swords and assaulted three men. (A Diplomat in Japan written by Sir Ernest M. Satow (1843-1912) , a British diplomat of the days, reads "They were now ordered to turn back, and as they were wheeling their horses in obedience, were suddenly set upon by several armed men belonging to the train, who hacked at them with the sharp-edged heavy swords.") They fled toward Hongakuji, a Soto Zen temple, which was and still is located near today's Yokohama Station, roughly 3 kilometers southwest of the incident spot, and America had a consulate in the temple back at the time. One of them, Charles L. Richardson by name, a merchant from Shanghai, fell off the horse while on the run. A pursuing samurai caught up to him and finished by a stab in the neck. (By chance, the samurai was elder brother of the samurai who had assassinated Naosuke Ii (1815-1860), a high-ranking government official, two years earlier. See Jogyoji for details). Two injured Britons managed to escape and sought refuge in Hongakuji. Mrs. Borradaile, who was unhurt, rushed to the English legation in Yokohama for help. A 25-year-old British surgeon named William Wills, an Edinburgh University graduate, who had been sent to the British legation in Yokohama a year earlier, was dispatched to the scene. Confirming Richardson's death, he went to Hongakuji and took care of the two wounded Britons who were almost killed. Immediately after the incident, the British government demanded the Tokugawa Shogunate to pay an indemnity of 100,000 pounds sterling, and Kagoshima Daimyo to pay 25,000 pounds and to execute the killer samurai. The Shogunate reluctantly accepted the request, whereas the Daimyo had no intention to pay, much less to execute the samurai. As a result, the Kagoshima-British Battle broke out. In July 1863, British fleet of seven warships entered Kinko Bay in NamamugiJikenKagoshima and began to exchange cannon fires, with British 101 cannons as against Kagoshima's 83. The British fleet lost a total of 13 soldiers including captain of the flagship HMS Euryalus, but Kagoshima's damages were much more serious. Nearly 10 percent of the town were burnt to the ground. Kagoshima Daimyo recognized anew that their military power was no match for Western technology, and changed its xenophobia policy. Not only did they accept British demand, they sued for peace, and a close relationship between the two was rapidly cultivated. After the Meiji Imperial Restoration of 1868, in which Kagoshima played a pivotal role, the major Cabinet members were shared by those from Kagoshima domain. They vigorously employed British systems. Just to mention a few, Japanese cars run on the left-hand side of road as if Japan had been a member country of the Commonwealth. The size of all Japanese daily newspapers measures 32 by 21.5 inches per sheet (four pages) because in the early Meiji Period (1868-1912), Japan imported newsprint from Britain where the 32-inch width was the standard size. In particular, Surgeon Wills rendered great services for the wounded in the Japanese civil war before the Restoration and contributed to the development of Japanese medical technology. It's been nearly one and a half centuries since the Incident, and today, few people know what the monument is for.
(Note: On September 6, 2012, Richardson's 150th death anniversary, great-grandchildren of his elder sister visited for the first time ever for the bereaved the Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery where he was laid to rest.)


Tomb of Yujiro Ishihara

At the gate of the temple's cemetery is a signpost showing the direction toward the tomb of Yujiro Ishihara (1934-1987), one of the most popular movie actor. He is the younger brother of Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara (1932-). Shintaro Ishihara won Japan's most prestigious Akutagawa Prize, a gateway to prominence for new writers, with his novel A Season of the Sun in 1956 at age 23 while he was an undergraduate student of Hitotsubashi University, one of the oldest and most prominent institutes for social science in Japan. The novel depicted sexual challenges among youth, which were still tabooed in Japan and the book was listed on top of the best-sellers creating the term "Sun Tribes". In filming the novel, he nominated his brother Yujiro as the hero, whereby Yujiro rose to the outright super-star. Unfortunately, he died of liver cancer in 1987 at age 52 and was buried here. At the memorial service for his 12th anniversary of death, which took place in July 1999, nearly 200,000 mourning fans reportedly joined the ceremony jeopardizing traffic flows near the Temple all day long. Later, the neighbors accused the Temple and the mass organizer as well as the police of not taking necessary measures in advance. Even today, many fans seem to visit the tombs as the signposts are seen in the graveyard.

Shintaro is well known overseas with his another book The Japan That Can Say No (1989). Since he took Governor's office in April 1999, his controversial comments and actions have infuriated central government bureaucrats. The Time magazine (Asian Edition) reported that "he seems to get into trouble every time he opens his mouth. But, Japan's most controversial politician is one of its most popular." For example, he invited the Dalai Lama to visit his office, accused China of its human right policy, visited Taiwan in May 2000 to attend the Inauguration of President Chen Shui-bian, imposed a 3 percent levy on the revenue of large banks, paid an official visit to Yasukuni Shrine on August 15, 2000 for the first time ever as the Tokyo governor to attend an annual memorial service held for the war-dead including Class-A war criminals, all are what the bureaucrats and parliament members cannot or hesitate to act. Among many comments he made is "Credit rating agencies like Moody's and S & P are the backup fighter planes for the American economy." (Note. In June 2002, Moody's downgraded Japanese government bonds by two notches to A2, same as that of Cyprus, Greece and Israel, and sunk to three notches beneath Italy's.) As of summer 2000, opinion polls showed the support rate for his governorship reached over 70 percent, as against 21 percent for the Prime Minister Mori and his cabinet.

In April 2012, he was invited by the Heritage Foundation in Washington D.C. to make a speech on his political view as the Governor of Tokyo. His speech is available here. He started the speech referring to the Japanese Constitution, of which the Article 9 outlaws war as a means to settle international disputes, criticizing the Constitution was made prematurely by the Occupied Forces after the War and should be abolished. (In stark contrast, Kenzaburo Oe (1935-), the Nobel laureate of literature in 1994 and also Akutagawa prize winner, strongly supports it and formed the Article 9 Association.) At the end of the 40-minute talks, Governor Ishihara declared that Tokyo would buy out privately-owned Senkaku Island (called Diaoyu in mainland China) in the East China Sea and build facilities for fishermen. (He extremely hates single-party regime of China and calls China Sina, the old name of China used in Japan before the War). Surprised at his intention, then Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda (1957-) nationalized the islands in September 2012 to keep Tokyo from building structures on the islands. The nationalization triggered severe friction between Japan and China, the worst ever since the two nations opened diplomacy in 1972. Japan claims the Senkaku Islands are an inherent part of the territory of Japan in light of historical facts and based upon international law, whereas China insists its sovereignty.

Notes

Zazen practice
The Temple offers foreigners to join zazen session.
Zazen-kai
for English speaking people is held once a month on the morning of Saturday. Will be charged 500 yen per person.

SojiCoridorAccording to the Temple's chronicle, it once opened a Zazen school in the Sony Building located in Ginza, Tokyo in September 1973. Recently, I stopped by the building to check if the school is still open. A young receptionist said that she has "never heard anything like that." Seems to be closed long ago.

When young men who join the Temple to become the priests and start ascetic training, almost all of them will suffer a vitamin deficiency syndrome within several days. Poor food with less than 1,000 kilo calories per day are always vegetarian with no animal protein. Nevertheless, all chief priests of the Tempe are known for their longevity, living to be over ninety. Current chief priest (as of April 2014) was born in 1928. Diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, heart conditions are the last things they suffer. A characteristic common to all of them is that they are thin and far from obese. Nutritionists should clarify why those people with apparent malnutrition can live so long.

(A Japanese medical doctor who is an authority on Werner Syndrome says that human genes allow us to live over 100 years. If you want to live long, he says, you have to: (1) Cut your calory intake by half, whereby oxidant can be reduced, (2) Walk at least 10,000 steps a day. Not only does walking make your body strong physically, but also activate your brain, (3) Drink two liters water a day to promote metabolism, (4) Be sociable, and (5) Think positively, try to live long. The Asahi Shinbun, a major daily in Japan, reported in a March 2001 issue.)

The Temple aims to be open to the public, and there are many programs available for casual visitors including sit-in (zazen) meditation for the laity. Among them are movies on the website that show various services regularly observed at the temple. You can watch them here.

Guided Tour
The Temple also hosts a guided tour five times a day at 10:00, 11:00, 13:00, 14:00 and 15:00 with a fee of 400 yen per head. I joined this tour one day in May 2010. I called the information desk in advance before the day to confirm if it's all right with me to join the 13:00 p.m. tour.

It took us exactly one hour starting from the information office at Koshakudai hall. At the beginning, the guide (a young trainee priest) told us (A group of 3. Two others were strangers to me) to touch the floor of 100-ken corridor. We did, and noticed that it was as smooth as glass. The guide priest told us that they clean the floor with a wet rag twice a day early in the morning and evening. He gave us various information on the Temple that I didn't know such as:

When the original Sojiji in Noto was burned down and decided to build a new one, they chose Yokohama because Yokohama was a newly opened port town and convenient to let foreigners know Soto Zen. Currently, there are about 160 trainee priests in the Temple. Structures were built in east and west zones so that they would not be burned out totally should there occur another devastating fire. In between, the corridor was built to connect east and west structures. The floors of the main hall and Hokodo are made of flagstones. Zen was brought from China and the Temple followed Chinese Zen style. In Zen temples, quietness is important and priests' conversation has to be minimized. To let them know time for Zazen, dining, sleeping, etc. gong-bells are used as the signal instead of telling by words.(No microphones or speakers in any temples.) In front of Butsuden Hall, the guide told us it is called "Daiyuhoden". I long thought it should be called "Dai-o-hoden", and I asked him if it is really called "Daiyuhoden". He said "yes". The guide led us Shuryo, Hokodo, Butsuden, Daisodo, Shiuntai and back to Koshakudai. From Hokodo up to Daisodo was a tunnel-like corridor underneath. On both walls of the corridor were many pictures hung showing daily life of training priests. The guide elaborated how they are practicing every day pointing at those pictures. Its was raining outside but we didn't need umbrellas.

Back home, I checked how I learnt Butsuden was called "Dai-o-hoden", and found that Manpukuji in Kyoto, the mother temple of Obaku Zen sect, calls it "Dai-o-hoden". I wondered why the same Zen Buddhists call it differently. I asked Manpukuji by e-mail why they call the hall "Dai-o-hoden". Manpukuji was kind enough to reply immediately. It was founded 350 years ago by a Chinese Zen priest and the chairs of chief priest had long been served by Chinese priests. Their pronunciation of the hall sounded like "Dai-o-hoden". In other words, it followed Chinese pronunciation. Chinese and Japanese use basically the same Chinese ideographic characters, but pronouce them differently. A case in point is Bejing and Tokyo. Beijing is Northern Capital in ideography and Tokyo is Eastern Capital, but Chinese call Tokyo Tonjing.

Priest Ryokan (1758-1831)
Probably, he is one of the most popular priests to Japanese and even children may have heard of his name. Born in Niigata Prefecture, he entered priesthood at a nearby Soto Zen temple at age 18. Despite the fact that he was indirectly involved in publishing the Shobo Genzo and familiar with it, what he preached was easy to understand for the laity. And yet he remained a typical mendicant priest, or a friar in Christian term, for the entire life travelling across the country without staying or having any temples. In later years, he came back to home town and lived in genteel poverty. He also loved children and played with them. He was also good at Chinese poets as well as Japanese tanka, or 31-syllable-verse. Among many famous phrases he made is : "When you are to meet with natural disasters, you should meet them. When your death is unavoidable, you should accept it."


Soto Sect's affiliated institutes
Adjacent to the Temple is Tsurumi University which is run by the Temple and has the faculties of Literature and Dentistry.
The Soto Sect has a number of affiliated organizations, mostly educational institutes, as listed below:
Komazawa University and Komazawa Women's College in Tokyo; Aichi Gakuin University in Aichi Prefecture; Aichi Junior and Senior High Schools in Nagoya; Tohoku Fukushi University in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture; Setagaya Gakuen Junior and Senior High Schools in Tokyo; Tatara Gakuen High School in Yamaguchi Prefecture; Toyokawa High School in Aichi Prefecture, etc.

Tsurumi University has a program called Lifelong Learning Seminar, whereby it provides various courses of study for the community people such as literature, history, culture, religion, health, sports and so on. Anyone can join the seminar for a small fee. I applied for the "American Short Stories" in spring 2014. The teacher is Prof. Kunio Mori (1947-), a specialist of American poem and literature. The 90-minute lecture, once a week on weekday afternoon, totaling ten lectures cost me 14,000 yen. It started with Jack London's The Law of Life, followed by Edith Wharton's Roman Fever and will end with John Updike's Your Lover Just Called in early July. When I go to the Temple for the lecture, I usually visit the main hall (Daiyuhoden) for prayer and take a stroll in the Temple's ground before going to the classroom. One day, I saw two sedans stop in front of the gigantic Sanshokaku building, the visitors' center. Got off each sedan was a priest, both wearing formal Buddhist attires and seemed in their 40s. The two began to chat with a smile. What surprised me were the cars they had been in; one Toyota's Lexus and the other German BMW.

(Updated April 2014)

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